United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
COLLINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court is a motion to suppress evidence (DE 24) filed by
Defendant Lemond Ledford. Ledford seeks to suppress evidence
discovered by police during a traffic stop on March 31, 2018.
Ledford contends that the evidence from the encounter was
obtained as a result of violations of his Fourth Amendment
rights. After considering the evidence and arguments
submitted by the parties in this matter, I RECOMMEND that
Ledford's motion to suppress evidence be DENIED.
25, 2018, the Government indicted Ledford by way of a
single-count indictment, charging him with being a felon in
possession of a firearm. (DE 1). On August 16, 2018, Ledford
pleaded not guilty to the charge in the indictment. (DE 17).
On November 6, 2018, Ledford filed the instant motion to
suppress. (DE 24). The matter was referred to the undersigned
Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 72-1. (DE 28).
evidentiary hearing on this matter was held on February 6,
2019. (DE 32). On May 6, 2019, Ledford filed a post-hearing
brief in support of his motion to suppress. (DE 42). The
Government filed its response on June 5, 2019. (DE 43). On
June 19, 2019, Ledford filed his reply brief. (DE 44).
FINDINGS OF FACT
hearing, the Government offered the testimony of Fort Wayne
Police Department (“FWPD”) Officers Douglas
Weaver (“Officer Weaver”), Brian Juricak
(“Officer Juricak”), and Nicholas Lichtsinn
(“Officer Lichtsinn”). (DE 34 Transcript of
Motion to Suppress Hearing (“Tr.”) at 2). Ledford
did not offer the testimony of any witnesses. For the reasons
discussed below I FIND the testimony of the Government's
witnesses to be credible.
March 31, 2018, Officer Weaver was patrolling the northwest
area of Fort Wayne, wearing a fully marked FWPD uniform and
driving a fully marked FWPD squad car. (Tr. 6-7). Officer
Weaver testified that he worked in that area for some time
and knew it to be a high drug and crime area. (Tr. 8-9).
around 12:00 a.m., while idling in a gas station, Officer
Weaver observed a red Chevy Avalanche truck pull into the
parking lot of the Regency Inn and stay there for about 10
minutes. (Tr. 8-9). While the truck was parked, Officer
Weaver observed somebody get in and out of the vehicle. (Tr.
8). Officer Weaver testified that when the truck pulled into
the parking lot and when it left, he observed that a
headlight was out on the front passenger side. (Tr. 8; Ex. 1
truck, driven by Ledford, pulled out of the parking lot and
began traveling eastbound on Coliseum Boulevard in the third
lane from the right. (Tr. 9; Ex. 1 at 00:30-00:50). Officer
Weaver began to follow the truck and observed it cross and
straddle the white line separating traffic lanes. (Tr. 9; Ex.
1 at 00:36-00:045). Then, the truck began to merge into the
center lane but failed to indicate the merger with its turn
signal. (Tr. 8-9, 14-15; Ex. 1 at 00:36-00:50).
point, Officer Weaver activated his emergency lights. (Tr.
8-9; Ex. 1 at 00:45). Ledford, however, did not immediately
pull over; rather, he continued to merge into the center lane
and there came to a brief stop. (Tr. 9; Ex. 1 at 00:45-1:00).
Officer Weaver, in a further effort to effectuate a traffic
stop, activated the sirens on his FWPD squad car. (Tr. 9; Ex.
1 at 00:55). The truck briefly continued to travel eastbound
on Coliseum Bouvard, then turned right onto Lima Road where
it came to a stop. (Tr. 9-10; Ex. 1 at 01:00-01:30).
Weaver exited his vehicle and walked up to the front
driver-side window of the truck where Ledford was seated.
(Ex. 1 at 01:30-01:50). Before he reached the window, Officer
Weaver noticed Ledford put a bottle of vodka in the back seat
of the truck. (Tr. 10; see also Ex. 1 at
01:50-01:53). Officer Weaver requested Ledford's license
and vehicle registration and noticed that Ledford had red and
watery eyes. (Tr. 14-15; Ex. 1 at 01:55-02:55). Ledford
produced his license but failed to produce his registration.
(Tr. 14-15; Ex. 1 at 01:55-03:35). Around this time, Officer
Juricak arrived on the scene wearing a fully marked police
uniform and driving a fully marked FWPD police vehicle. (Tr.
Weaver returned to his squad car to run the information that
Ledford had given to him. (Tr. 14-15). Around this time
Officer Lichtsinn arrived at the stop. (Tr. 47-48). Based on
Officer Weaver's observations-that is, Ledford had been
slow to respond to Officer Weaver's emergency lights and
sirens, stopped in the center lane briefly, changed lanes
without signaling, had red and watery eyes, and tried to
conceal a bottle of alcohol-he believed that Ledford was
intoxicated. (Tr. 14-16). Therefore, Officer Weaver intended
to conduct a field sobriety test. (Tr. 14-16).
running Ledford's information, Officer Weaver returned to
the truck and instructed Ledford to step out of the truck.
(Tr. 16, 43; Ex. 1 at 05:30-05:36). Ledford did not comply
with this instruction, and a struggle ensued between Ledford
and the three officers on the scene. (Tr. 16-17, 44-45,
49-50; Ex. 1 at 05:36-06:06). Ledford refused to exit the
truck and held on to its steering wheel to keep from being
forced out, but the officers overpowered and removed him.
(Tr. 17, 44-45, 49-50, 54; Ex. 1 at 05:36-06:06). Once
outside of the vehicle, Ledford resisted the officers'
instructions to put his hands behind his back and ...